Running Sisters | Jackie Welch

By Riverine Herald

JACKIE Welch, 56, has been running for 10 years.

It started with a walk-run challenge around Scenic Drive Echuca with her friend Chris.

They had retired from netball and needed an activity to keep fit.

During the early days of running 500m and walking another 500m, she never dreamt she’d become an ultra-marathon runner.

Jackie had her hopes and fitness levels high, and until the recent border closures within Australia due to COVID-19 was ready to complete Run Larapinta, a four-day stage race in late August 2020 on the Larapinta Trail in the MacDonnell Ranges around Alice Springs.

She was to have run the longer Malbunka course, about 130km over four days.

The course isn’t for the faint-hearted and preparation is critical.

Runners must carry three litres of water, a rain jacket, whistle, head torch and first aid kit.

Husband Leo is her support crew and would have been be at checkpoints with food, and to refill her water and swap over her shoes.

It was the final event of the Triple Crown series and would have been a major achievement for Jackie.

However, COVID-19 has seen the event be postponed to 2021.

The months of training were enjoyable, particularly as 10-year-old grandson Sol kept her company.

Each Saturday and Sunday he would meet his Nan at 6.30am on his bike.

He would ride 20km of river trails on his mountain bike as she ran.

Together they’ve enjoyed the sunrise, special moments including raisin toast and a hot chocolate at Brownz Cafe afterwards.

Throughout the week Jackie also runs shorter distances.

This includes a run through the cemetery - an important part of her routine.

Tragically five years ago her son Jai, 33, died in a water-skiing accident.

Jai also shared a love of running with his mum, inspiring her to complete her first long run.

Running has helped with grief, and although at the time of Jai’s accident she could have let running go, Jackie's counsellor encouraged her to stuff her crop top with tissues and head out the door.

It was great advice and although she still needs the tissues. Running is a coping mechanism and as she runs she feels Jai is with her.

Four years ago, Jackie undertook the Michelle Bridges program to help lose a few kilos.

She also picked up tips which have helped her run longer distances.

Changing from a heel striker to a forefoot lander was one of the adjustments she has made.

In addition to 60 to 70km of running, Jackie’s week includes working in a business, a 30km bike ride and spending time with her six grandchildren who all live close by.

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